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Avon sees drop in bear complaints

Special to the DailyAvon Police Chief Brian Kozak recently passed out information about bears to people leaving Wildridge. The mountaintop neighborhood continues to have frequent visits from bears.
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AVON ” Avon Detective Paul Arnold recalled the days when people would crowd around a bear that had made its way into a neighborhood from the woods.

“They would send their kids out to pet it and take pictures, and no, that’s not a good thing to do,” he said.

The actions may seem ludicrous, but it was the norm just six years ago, Arnold said. But since then, Avon’s cracked down on how its residents interact with wildlife ” and it’s gotten results.

“When I got here six years ago, I had to chase bears everywhere,” Arnold said. “Since then the call load on the bears has come down significantly.”

Avon’s first bear law was passed in 2003 and required people to keep their trash indoors except on trash pickup days.

The law worked moderately well, but it wasn’t until the Avon Police Department put some serious manpower into enforcement that the number of complaints about bears dropped.

Officers kicked their education efforts into high gear, passing out pamphlets and knocking on doors to spread the good word about bear safety.

“People had a lot of questions,” Arnold said. “And the more the public knows, the better.”

The effort continued this year, and even Police Chief Brian Kozak got out in the hot sun to pass out bear safety brochures to drivers on Metcalf Road.

Education is a constant effort because of the community’s transient nature, Arnold said.

People come and go so often that police have to work constantly to keep everyone on the up and up on human/bear etiquette.

“Anytime you come up with a stricter law, it’s going to make an impact,” said Avon spokeswoman Jacquie Halburnt. “But part of it was an educational campaign. That was the crucial link in making this work. And residents are our best ordinance enforcers. They call us and tell us, ‘My neighbor left his trash out last night.'”

Arnold also attributed more human/bear interaction to the disappearance of a spring bear-hunting season, but Randy Hampton, the spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife said, just as many bears are being hunted today ” it’s just happening in the fall instead of the spring.

“The bear population isn’t increasing,” Hampton said. “It’s just that humans are moving out to where bears are.”

The most recent addition to Avon’s bear law this year requires trash containers to have addresses on them.

“Bears go for whatever is easy to get,” Arnold said. “When trash cans were out, we were getting a lot of calls, but sometimes it was hard to figure out who was responsible.”

The good news is that after a hot spell in the Vail Valley, regular afternoon showers should compel bears to get out of the neighborhoods.

“We shouldn’t see a lot of bears while the food source is plentiful,” Arnold said. “When it got dry, it chased them down, but the recent rains means more food.”

Of course, there are still some problem areas. One Avon apartment complex is battling to get bear-resistant trash cans installed, and there are frequent bear sightings in Wildridge, the Avon neighborhood closest to the wilderness where bears have been breaking into garbage cans.

So while things are getting better around Avon, it’s no time for anyone to let their guard down, Arnold said.

Oh, and close those screen doors.

“Screen doors are like spider webs for a bear,” Arnold said.

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or nfrey@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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